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Publication numberUS8169638 B2
Publication typeGrant
Application numberUS 11/254,869
Publication dateMay 1, 2012
Filing dateOct 21, 2005
Priority dateJun 1, 2005
Also published asCN1874404A, CN1874404B, EP1729238A1, US20060274360
Publication number11254869, 254869, US 8169638 B2, US 8169638B2, US-B2-8169638, US8169638 B2, US8169638B2
InventorsKazuyuki Fukui, Mikio Masui, Hiroyuki Ozawa, Shuichiro Kaneko, Norihisa Takayama, Yoshikazu Ikenoue
Original AssigneeKonica Minolta Business Technologies, Inc.
Export CitationBiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan
External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet
Image processing system, image processing apparatus, and image processing program product suited for transmitting and receiving data among a plurality of image processing apparatuses
US 8169638 B2
Abstract
In order to share user identification information among a plurality of MFPs without using a server, each of a plurality of MFPs forming an image processing system stores in a HDD registered user information which at least includes the user identification information for identifying a user, requests another MFP to transmit registered user information stored in the HDD provided in that MFP, receives the registered user information transmitted by that MFP according to the request made by a request portion, and stores in the HDD user data that at least includes the received registered user information.
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Claims(29)
1. An image processing system, comprising:
a plurality of image processing apparatuses connected to a network;
wherein each image processing apparatus comprises:
a registered user information storage portion to store registered user information including user identification information for authenticating each registered user of the image processing apparatus,
a request portion to request another of the image processing apparatuses to transmit registered user information stored in the another image processing apparatus to the image processing apparatus,
a reception portion to receive the transmitted registered user information stored in the another image processing apparatus in response to the request,
a user data storage portion to store user data including the registered user information received in the reception portion, and
an authentication portion to authenticate a user using the registered user information included in said stored user data.
2. The image processing system according to claim 1, wherein the user data storage portion further stores user data including the registered user information stored in the registered user information storage portion of the image processing apparatus in addition to the registered user information received in the reception portion.
3. The image processing system according to claim 1, wherein the user data storage portion stores the registered user information received in the reception portion associated with apparatus identification information for identifying the image processing apparatus which stores the registered user information.
4. The image processing system according to claim 1, wherein each image processing apparatus further comprises a display portion to display user identification information of the user data stored in the user data storage portion, and a designation portion to accept designation of the user identification information displayed in the display portion.
5. The image processing system according to claim 4, wherein the user data includes destination information for image data, and each image processing apparatus further comprises a data input portion into which the image data is inputted, and a transmission portion to transmit the image data inputted in the data input portion based on destination information specified by the user identification information designated in the designation portion.
6. The image processing system according to claim 1, wherein the registered user information includes authentication information for authenticating a user, and each image processing apparatus further comprises an authentication portion to authenticate a user based on the authentication information and the registered user information.
7. The image processing system according to claim 1, wherein the request portion is configured to request the another of the image processing apparatuses to transmit the registered user information at least one of the following times:
(a) when the image processing apparatus is connected to the network;
(b) when power in the image processing apparatus is turned on; and
(c) at prescribed time intervals.
8. An image processing system, comprising:
a plurality of image processing apparatuses connected to a network;
wherein each image processing apparatus comprises:
a registered user information storage portion to store registered user information including user identification information for authenticating each registered user of the image processing apparatus,
a transmission portion to transmit the registered user information stored in the registered user information storage portion to another image processing apparatus,
a reception portion to receive the transmitted registered user information stored in the another image processing apparatus,
a user data storage portion to store user data including the registered user information received in the reception portion, and
an authentication portion to authenticate a user using the registered user information included in said stored user data.
9. The image processing system according to claim 8, wherein the user data storage portion further stores user data including the registered user information stored in the registered user information storage portion in addition to the registered user information received in the reception portion.
10. The image processing system according to claim 8, wherein the user data storage portion stores the registered user information received in the reception portion associated with apparatus identification information for identifying the image processing apparatus which stores the registered user information.
11. The image processing system according to claim 8, wherein each image processing apparatus further comprises a display portion to display user identification information of the user data stored in the user data storage portion, and a designation portion to accept designation of the user identification information displayed in the display portion.
12. The image processing system according to claim 11, wherein the user data includes destination information for image data, and each image processing apparatus further comprises a data input portion into which the image data is inputted, and a transmission portion to transmit the image data inputted in the data input portion based on destination information specified by the user identification information designated in the designation portion.
13. The image processing system according to claim 8, wherein the registered user information includes authentication information for authenticating a user, and each image processing apparatus further comprises an authentication portion to authenticate a user based on the authentication information and the registered user information.
14. An image processing apparatus which is connected to a network and communicates with another image processing apparatus connected to the network, comprising:
a registered user information storage portion to store registered user information including user identification information for authenticating each registered user of the image processing apparatus;
a request portion to request the another image processing apparatus to transmit registered user information stored in the another image processing apparatus;
a reception portion to receive the transmitted registered user information stored in the another image processing apparatus in response to the request;
a user data storage portion to store user data including the registered user information received in the reception portion; and
an authentication portion to authenticate a user using the registered user information included in said stored user data.
15. The image processing apparatus according to claim 14, wherein the user data storage portion further stores user data including the registered user information stored in the registered user information storage portion in addition to the registered user information received in the reception portion.
16. The image processing apparatus according to claim 14, wherein the user data storage portion stores the registered user information received in the reception portion associated with apparatus identification information for identifying the image processing apparatus which stores the registered user information.
17. The image processing apparatus according to claim 14, wherein each image processing apparatus further comprises a display portion to display user identification information of the user data stored in the user data storage portion, and a designation portion to accept designation of the user identification information displayed in the display portion.
18. The image processing apparatus according to claim 17, wherein the user data includes destination information for image data, and each image processing apparatus further comprises a data input portion into which the image data is inputted, and a transmission portion to transmit the image data inputted in the data input portion based on destination information specified by the user identification information designated in the designation portion.
19. The image processing apparatus according to claim 14, wherein the registered user information includes authentication information for authenticating a user, and each image processing apparatus further comprises an authentication portion to authenticate a user based on the authentication information and the registered user information.
20. The image processing apparatus according to claim 14, wherein the request portion is configured to request the another of the image processing apparatuses to transmit the registered user information at least one of the following times:
(a) when the image processing apparatus is connected to the network;
(b) when power in the image processing apparatus is turned on; and
(c) at prescribed time intervals.
21. An image processing apparatus which is connected to a network and communicates with another image processing apparatus connected to the network, comprising:
a registered user information storage portion to store registered user information including user identification information for authenticating each registered user of the image processing apparatus;
a transmission portion to transmit the registered user information stored in the registered user information storage portion to the another image processing apparatus;
a reception portion to receive the transmitted registered user information stored in the another image processing apparatus;
a user data storage portion to store user data including the registered user information received in the reception portion, and
an authentication portion to authenticate a user using the registered user information included in said stored user data.
22. The image processing apparatus according to claim 21, wherein the user data storage portion further stores user data including the registered user information stored in the registered user information storage portion in addition to the registered user information received in the reception portion.
23. The image processing apparatus according to claim 21, wherein the user data storage portion stores the registered user information received in the reception portion associated with apparatus identification information for identifying the image processing apparatus which stores the registered user information.
24. The image processing apparatus according to claim 21, wherein each image processing apparatus further comprises a display portion to display user identification information of the user data stored in the user data storage portion, and a designation portion to accept designation of the user identification information displayed in the display portion.
25. The image processing apparatus according to claim 24, wherein the user data includes destination information for image data, and each image processing apparatus further comprises a data input portion into which the image data is inputted, and a transmission portion to transmit the image data inputted in the data input portion based on destination information specified by the user identification information designated in the designation portion.
26. The image processing apparatus according to claim 21, wherein the registered user information includes authentication information for authenticating a user, and each image processing apparatus further comprises an authentication portion to authenticate a user based on the authentication information and the registered user information.
27. A nontransitory computer readable medium encoded with an image processing program product for an image processing apparatus which is connected to a network and which communicates with another image processing apparatus connected to the network, the program comprising:
storing registered user information including user identification information for authenticating each registered user of the image processing apparatus;
requesting the another image processing apparatus to transmit registered user information stored in the another image processing apparatus;
receiving the transmitted registered user information stored in the another image processing apparatus in response to the request;
storing user data including the registered user information received in the receiving step; and
authenticating a user using the registered user information included in said stored user data.
28. The nontransitory computer readable medium according to claim 27, wherein the image processing apparatus requests the another of the image processing apparatuses to transmit the registered user information at least one of the following times:
(a) when the image processing apparatus is connected to the network;
(b) when power in the image processing apparatus is turned on; and
(c) at prescribed time intervals.
29. A nontransitory computer readable medium encoded with an image processing program product for an image processing apparatus which is connected to a network and which communicates with another image processing apparatus connected to the network, the program comprising:
storing registered user information including user identification information for authenticating each registered user of the image processing apparatus;
transmitting the registered user information stored in the storing step to the another image processing apparatus;
receiving the transmitted registered user information stored in the another image processing apparatus;
storing user data including the registered user information received in the receiving step; and
authenticating a user using the registered user information included in said stored user data.
Description

This application is based on Japanese Patent Application No. 2005-161001 filed with Japan Patent Office on Jun. 1, 2005, the entire content of which is hereby incorporated by reference.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

1. Field of the Invention

The present invention relates to an image processing system, an image processing apparatus, and an image processing program product, and more specifically to an image processing system suited for transmitting and receiving data among a plurality of image processing apparatuses connected to a network, an image processing apparatus, and an image processing program product executed by the image processing apparatus.

2. Description of the Related Art

In recent years, an image processing apparatus such as a scanner, a printer, or a facsimile is commonly used in the form of being connected to a network. In such form of use, as a technology for allowing the sharing of data among a plurality of image processing apparatuses, Japanese Patent Laying-Open No. 10-42114 describes a copying machine management system consisting of a plurality of digital copying machines connected to a communication line and of a single server, wherein the server includes an image file directory having an image file for storing image data transmitted from each digital copying machine and a client directory having a reception header management file for storing management data related to image data created and to be received by each of the digital copying machines, and upon reception, the digital copying machine periodically accesses the reception header management file of its own client directory of the server to confirm whether there is any image data to be received, and if there is such image data to be received, accesses the image file directory and takes in the relevant image data.

With the copying machine management system according to Japanese Patent Laying-Open No. 10-42114, however, the server is required to be connected to a network. Thus, in such a case as where a digital copying machine is connected anew to a network, a setting is required in which a network address of a file server required for accessing the file server is stored in the newly connected digital copying machine. As a result, there was a problem that system modifications could not be accommodated with flexibility.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The present invention is made to solve the above-described problem, and an object of the present invention is to provide an image processing system that allows sharing of data among a plurality of image processing apparatuses without the use of a server.

Another object of the present invention is to provide an image processing apparatus that is capable of sharing data with another image processing apparatus connected to a network without the use of a server.

A still another object of the present invention is to provide an image processing program product that allows sharing of data with another image processing apparatus connected to a network without the use of a server.

To achieve the above-described objects, according to one aspect of the present invention, an image processing system includes a plurality of image processing apparatuses connected to a network, wherein each image processing apparatus includes a registered user information storage portion to store registered user information including user identification information for identifying each user, a request portion to request another image processing apparatus to transmit the registered user information stored in the another image processing apparatus, a reception portion to receive the registered user information stored in the another image processing apparatus in response to the request, and a user data storage portion to store user data including the registered user information received in the reception portion.

According to this aspect, in each of a plurality of image processing apparatuses connected to a network, user data is stored that at least includes registered user information stored in another image processing apparatus. Thus, by storing the registered user information including user identification information in any one of the plurality of image processing apparatuses connected to the network, that registered user information will be stored in an image processing apparatus which had not stored that registered user information. Therefore, the registered user information needs only to be stored in any one of the plurality of image processing apparatuses. As a result, the image processing system can be provided that allows sharing of data among a plurality of image processing apparatuses without the use of a server.

According to another aspect of the present invention, an image processing system includes a plurality of image processing apparatuses connected to a network, wherein each image processing apparatus includes a registered user information storage portion to store registered user information including user identification information for identifying each user, a transmission portion to transmit the registered user information stored in the registered user information storage portion to another image processing apparatus, a reception portion to receive the registered user information stored in the another image processing apparatus, and a user data storage portion to store user data including the registered user information received in the reception portion.

According to this aspect, the image processing system can be provided that allows sharing of data among a plurality of image processing apparatuses without the use of a server.

According to a further aspect of the present invention, an image processing apparatus which is connected to a network and communicates with another image processing apparatus connected to the network includes a registered user information storage portion to store registered user information including user identification information for identifying each user, a request portion to request another image processing apparatus to transmit the registered user information stored in the another image processing apparatus, a reception portion to receive the registered user information stored in the another image processing apparatus in response to the request, and a user data storage portion to store user data including the registered user information received in the reception portion.

According to this aspect, the image processing apparatus can be provided that is capable of sharing data with another image processing apparatus connected to a network without the use of a server.

According to a still further aspect of the present invention, an image processing apparatus which is connected to a network and communicates with another image processing apparatus connected to the network includes a registered user information storage portion to store registered user information including user identification information for identifying each user, a transmission portion to transmit the registered user information stored in the registered user information storage portion to another image processing apparatus, a reception portion to receive the registered user information stored in the another image processing apparatus, and a user data storage portion to store user data including the registered user information received in the reception portion.

According to this aspect, the image processing apparatus can be provided that is capable of sharing data with another image processing apparatus connected to a network without the use of a server.

According to a still further aspect of the present invention, an image processing program product stores an image processing program for an image processing apparatus which is connected to a network and which communicates with another image processing apparatus connected to the network, wherein the program includes the steps of storing registered user information including user identification information for identifying each user, requesting another image processing apparatus to transmit the registered user information stored in the another image processing apparatus, receiving the registered user information stored in the another image processing apparatus in response to the request, and storing user data including the registered user information received in the receiving step.

According to this aspect, the image processing program product can be provided that allows sharing of data with another image processing apparatus connected to a network without the use of a server.

According to a still further aspect of the present invention, an image processing program product stores an image processing program for an image processing apparatus which is connected to a network and which communicates with another image processing apparatus connected to the network, wherein the program includes the steps of storing registered user information including user identification information for identifying each user, transmitting the registered user information stored in the storing step to another image processing apparatus, receiving the registered user information stored in the another image processing apparatus, and storing user data including the registered user information received in the receiving step.

According to this aspect, the image processing program product can be provided that allows sharing of data with another image processing apparatus connected to a network without the use of a server.

The foregoing and other objects, features, aspects and advantages of the present invention will become more apparent from the following detailed description of the present invention when taken in conjunction with the accompanying drawings.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is an overall schematic diagram of an image processing system according to a first embodiment of the present invention.

FIG. 2 is a block diagram showing a hardware arrangement of an MFP according to the first embodiment.

FIGS. 3A and 3B are flow charts showing a flow of a process executed when an MFP is newly connected to a network.

FIGS. 4A to 4F are diagrams for describing registered user information and first and second user data.

FIG. 5 is a flow chart showing a flow of a job setting process.

FIG. 6A is a diagram illustrating an example of a sub-window showing a job setting window.

FIG. 6B is a diagram illustrating an example of a sub-window showing detailed information of a user.

FIGS. 7A to 7D are flow charts showing a flow of a BOX transmission and reception process executed by the image processing system in the first embodiment.

FIG. 8 is a diagram showing an example of a format of job attribute information.

FIGS. 9A to 9C are flow charts showing a flow of a BOX transmission and reception process executed in an image processing system according to a modification.

FIGS. 10A and 10B are flow charts showing a flow of a home terminal detection process.

FIGS. 11A and 11B are other flow charts showing a flow of a process executed when an MFP is newly connected to a network.

FIGS. 12A and 12B are diagrams for describing first and second user data according to a third embodiment.

FIGS. 13A to 13C are flow charts showing a flow of a BOX transmission and reception process executed in an image processing system according to the third embodiment.

FIG. 14 is a diagram showing an example of a format of job attribute information according to the third embodiment.

DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS

The embodiments of the present invention will be described below with reference to the drawings. In the following description, the same or corresponding parts are denoted by the same reference characters. Their names and function are also the same. Thus, a detailed description thereof will not be repeated.

First Embodiment

FIG. 1 is an overall schematic diagram showing an image processing system according to the first embodiment of the present invention. With reference to FIG. 1, an image processing system 1 includes multi function peripherals (referred to as “MFP” below) 100, 100A, 100B, and 100C, each connected to a network 2. The arrangement and the function of MFP 100, 100A, 100B, and 100C are the same so that MFP 100 will be described here as an example unless otherwise noted.

MFP (Multi Function Peripheral) 100 includes a scanner for scanning a sheet of original manuscript, an image forming portion for forming an image on recording media such as a sheet of paper based on image data, and a facsimile, and has an image scanning function, a copying function, and a facsimile transmission and reception function. Moreover, although MFP 100 is described as an example in the this embodiment, MFP 100 can be replaced by an apparatus having a function for processing an image, for instance, a scanner, an image forming apparatus, a facsimile, a personal computer for generating image data, and the like.

Network 2 is a local area network (LAN) and the form of connection can be fixed line or wireless. In addition, network 2 is not limited to a LAN and can be a wide area network (WAN) such as the Internet, a network using general public lines, and so on.

FIG. 2 is a block diagram showing a hardware arrangement of MFP 100 according to this embodiment. With reference to FIG. 2, MFP 100 includes, respectively connected to a bus 120, a central processing unit (CPU) 101, a ROM (Read Only Memory) 103 that stores a program or the like to be executed by CPU 101, a RAM (Random Access Memory) 105 for loading a program to be executed and for storing data during execution of the program, a hard disk drive (HDD) 107 for storing data in a nonvolatile manner, a card interface (I/F) 109 to which a flash ROM 108 is attached, a communication I/F 111 for connecting MFP 100 to network 2, a scanner 113, an image forming portion 115, a facsimile (FAX) 117, and an operation portion 119 as an interface with a user.

CPU 101 loads into RAM 105 and executes an image processing program stored in flash ROM 108 attached to card I/F 109. Moreover, the program executed by CPU 101 is not limited to the image processing program stored in flash ROM 108, and a program stored in an EEPROM (Electrically Erasable/Programmable Read Only Memory) connected additionally to CPU 101 can be loaded into RAM 105 and be executed. The use of an EEPROM makes it possible to rewrite or additionally write an image processing program. Thus, a computer connected to network 2 can rewrite the image processing program stored in the EEPROM of MFP 100 or additionally write a new image processing program into the EEPROM. Furthermore, MFP 100 can download an image processing program from a computer connected to network 2 and store the image processing program in an EEPROM.

The program referred to here not only includes a program directly executable by CPU 101, but also a program in a source program format, a compressed program, an encrypted program, and the like.

Image forming portion 115 is a laser printer, an ink jet printer, or the like, and makes image data visible on recording media such as a sheet of paper. Scanner 113 includes a photoelectric transducer such as a CCD (Charge Coupled Device) and the like, and optically reads a sheet of original manuscript and outputs electronic data that is the image data. FAX 117 transmits and receives the image data according to the facsimile protocol via a public telephone line.

Operation portion 119 includes an input portion 119A and a display portion 119B. Input portion 119A is an input device such as a touch panel, a keyboard, or a mouse for accepting an input of operation by a user of MFP 100. Display portion 119B is a liquid crystal display or an organic EL (Electro-Luminescence) display panel. When using a touch panel formed of a transparent member for input portion 119A, the touch panel is provided overlapping display portion 119B so that an instruction of a button displayed on display portion 119B can be detected. Thus, input of a variety of operations becomes possible.

Communication I/F 111 is a communication interface for connecting MFP 100 to network 2. Thus, it becomes possible for MFP 100 to communicate with other MFPs 100A, 100B, and 100C. Although MFP 100 is connected to other MFPs 100A, 100B, and 100C via network 2, it can also be connected directly using a serial interface or a parallel interface. Communication I/F 111 uses an interface that corresponds to the form of connection between MFP 100 and other MFPs 100A, 100B, and 100C.

The input of data into MFP 100 includes the following cases: (1) when scanner 113 scans a sheet of original manuscript and the image data is inputted; (2) when image data is received from a computer or from other MFPs 100A, 100B, and 100C connected to network 2 via communication I/F 111; (3) when image data store in flash ROM 108 is read via card I/F 109; and (4) when facsimile data is received in FAX 117. The data inputted into MFP 100 is given a file name and is temporarily stored in a prescribed area of HDD 107.

The output of data from MFP 100 includes the following cases: when the data stored in HDD 107 is (1) made visible on recording media such as a sheet of paper by image forming portion 115, (2) transmitted to a computer or to other MFPs 100A, 100B, and 100C connected to network 2 via communication I/F 111, (3) stored in flash ROM 108, (4) outputted as facsimile data by FAX 117, and (5) displayed on display portion 119B.

Moreover, storage media that stores an image processing program is not limited to flash ROM 108 and can also be the media that records a program in a fixed manner, such as a flexible disk, a cassette tape, an optical disk [MO (Magnetic Optical Disc)/MD (Mini Disc)/DVD (Digital Versatile Disc)], an IC card (including a memory card), an optical card, and a semiconductor memory such as a masked ROM, an EPROM, an EEPROM, and the like.

In the image processing system according to this embodiment, with each of MFPs 100, 100A, 100B, and 100C, a user who mainly uses the apparatus is fixed. Thus, each of MFPs 100, 100A, 100B, and 100C stores registered user information in order to register the user who mainly uses it. The registered user information, which will be described later, includes at least user identification information for identifying a user. The name of the user can be used as the user identification information. Here, based on the user, any one or more of MFPs 100, 100A, 100B, and 100C which store the registered user information of that user are referred to as “home terminals.” For instance, if the registered user information of the user “David” is stored in MFP 100, a home terminal of the user “David” is MFP 100. Moreover, registered user information is stored in each of MFPs 100, 100A, 100B, and 100C to define a user who mainly uses the apparatus but not to prohibit the user whose registered user information is not stored therein from using it.

Here, the case in which MFP 100 is connected anew to network 2 where MFPs 100A, 100B, and 100C are already connected thereto is considered. For MFP 100, it is necessary to set apparatus identification information for identifying MFP 100 and the above-described registered user information. When the apparatus identification information and the registered user information are set for MFP 100, MFP 100 transmits the apparatus identification information and the registered user information to other MFPs 100A, 100B, and 100C. Thus, an image processing system is constructed among MFPs 100, 100A, 100B, and 100C.

FIGS. 3A and 3B are flow charts showing a flow of a process executed when MFP 100 is newly connected to a network. FIG. 3A shows a flow of an initial setting process executed in MFP 100, and FIG. 3B shows a flow of connection process executed in each of MFPs 100A, 100B, and 100C when the initial setting process is executed in MFP 100. The initial setting process and the connection process are implemented by having an initial setting program that is stored in flash ROM 108 loaded into RAM 105 and executed by CPU 101 in each of MFPs 100, 100A, 100B, and 100C. An initial setting program and a connection program are a part of the image processing program. Moreover, this embodiment is not limited to the example in which CPU 101 reads these programs from flash ROM 108 and executes them. CPU 101 can read and execute a program stored in ROM 103, or a program read from flash ROM 108 can be stored in an EEPROM connected to CPU 101 and that program can then be read and executed. Furthermore, by saving an image processing program stored in flash ROM 108 into HDD 107 first, the program can be loaded from HDD 107 into RAM 105 and be executed.

With reference to FIG. 3A, terminal information is registered in MFP 100 (step S01). The terminal information at least includes apparatus identification information for identifying MFP 100. The apparatus identification information is preferably location information assigned to MFP 100 in network 2, and is here an IP (Internet Protocol) address. The terminal information can include information showing the location where MFP 100 is disposed.

Next, registered user information of a user who uses MFP 100 as a home terminal is inputted into MFP 100 (step S02). When a plurality of users uses MFP 100 as a home terminal, registered user information of each of the plurality of users is inputted. The registered user information at least includes user identification information for identifying the user. The user identification information needs only to be unique information such as a user ID including characters or symbols and a name of the user. Here, a user name is used as the user identification information. The registered user information can also include accompanying information and authentication information in addition to the user identification information.

The registration of the terminal information in step S01 and the input of the registered user information in step S02 are performed by an operation of operation portion 119 by a user. More specifically, a terminal information input window and a registered user information input window are displayed on display portion 119B, and the user operates input portion 119A and inputs the terminal information and the registered user information according to these windows. Upon completing the input of the respective information, the user instructs on a finish button displayed on display portion 119B with input portion 119A so that the completion of the initial setting is detected in MFP 100. Moreover, the registration of the terminal information in step S01 and the input of the registered user information in step S02 are normally performed by an administrator of the terminal.

Then, it is determined whether the initial setting is completed or not (step S03). If the initial setting is completed, the process proceeds to step S04, and if it is not completed, the process goes back to step S01. In step S04, the terminal information and the registered user information for which initial setting is already performed are transmitted to the terminals in the same group. The same group refers to the set of terminals which form the image processing system. Here, MFPs 100, 100A, 100B, and 100C connected to network 2 are considered to be of the same group. Thus, by transmitting an inquiry by broadcast on network 2, MFP 100 receives the IP addresses of terminals respectively transmitted back from MFPs 100A, 100B, and 100C in response to the inquiry. In this manner, the IP addresses of the terminals that form the same group are obtained. Moreover, by grouping, a plurality of terminals connected to network 2 can be divided into different groups. For instance, MFPs 100 and 100A can form one group, while MFPs 100B and 100C can form another group. Such grouping is set by a user. More specifically, as described above, MFP 100 receives the IP addresses of MFPs 100A, 100B, and 100C connected to network 2 and detects MFPs 100A, 100B, and 100C, and the user designates which of MFPs 100A, 100B, and 100C should be in the same group as MFP 100.

Here, terminal information and registered user information are transmitted to one terminal chosen from MFPs 100A, 100B, and 100C set as the same group. An example is described in which MFP 100A is selected, and the terminal information and the registered user information of MFP 100 are transmitted from MFP 100 to MFP 100A.

Now, with reference to FIG. 3B, MFP 100A receives the terminal information and the registered user information of MFP 100 transmitted from MFP 100 (step S11). In response to this reception, MFP 100A transmits to MFP 100 the terminal information and the registered user information stored in HDD 107 of MFP 100A (step S12). Moreover, while MFP 100 executes step S04 and transmits the terminal information and the registered user information, this transmission is a request made to MFP 100A for transmission of the terminal information and the registered user information stored in MFP 100A. Instead of transmitting the terminal information and the registered user information in step S04, MFP 100 can transmit to MFP 100A a signal requesting the transmission of the terminal information and the registered user information which MFP 100A stores in its HDD 107. In this case, MFP 100A receives the signal requesting the transmission of the terminal information and the registered user information in step S11, and in response, transmits to MFP 100 the terminal information and the registered user information which MFP 100A stores in HDD 107 (step S12).

Going back to FIG. 3A, MFP 100 receives the terminal information and the registered user information of MFP 100A transmitted from MFP 100A (step S05). Then, it is determined whether a terminal to which the terminal information and the registered user information have not yet been transmitted exists among the terminals of the same group or not (step S06). If such a terminal exists, that terminal is selected and the process goes back to step S04, but if not, the process proceeds to step S07. Here, since the terminal information and the registered user information are not yet transmitted to MFPs 100B and 100C, either of these two is selected and the process goes back to step S04. Thus, MFP 100 transmits the terminal information and the registered user information of MFP 100 to the terminals of the same group one by one (step S04), and receives from each terminal the terminal information and the registered user information of that terminal (step S05). Moreover, although, here, the terminals of the same group are selected one by one and the terminal information and the registered user information are transmitted accordingly, the terminal information and the registered user information can be transmitted by broadcast, and the terminal information and the registered user information stored in MFPs 100A, 100B, and 100C can be received from MFPs 100A, 100B, and 100C respectively.

From step S07 onward, user data is generated from the terminal information and the registered user information received from all of terminals MFPs 100A, 100B, and 100C of the same group. In step S07, it is determined whether the registered user information of its own apparatus, i.e., MFP 100 itself, is to be used for the user data generation or not. This determination can be based on a selection made by a user, or it can be predetermined. If the registered user information of MFP 100 itself is to be used, the process proceeds to step S08, and if it is not to be used, step S08 is skipped and the process proceeds to step S09. In step S08, the registered user information stored in MFP 100 is read. Then, in step S09, the user data is generated from the terminal information and the registered user information. The user data includes the terminal information and the registered user information. Moreover, although the user data includes the terminal information and the registered user information in this embodiment, the user data needs only to include at least the registered user information. As for the generated user data, if it is determined in step S07 that the registered user information of MFP 100 itself is to be used, all of the terminal information and the registered user information of MFPs 100, 100A, 100B, and 100C put together becomes the user data (first user data), and if it is determined in step S07 that the registered user information of MFP 100 itself is not to be used, all of the terminal information and the registered user information of MFPs 100A, 100B, and 100C but not of MFP 100 put together becomes the user data (second user data). Then, the generated user data is stored in HDD 107.

With reference to FIG. 3B, each of MFPs 100A, 100B, and 100C receives the terminal information and the registered user information of MFP 100 transmitted from MFP 100 (step S11). In response to this reception, MFPs 100A, 100B, and 100C transmit the terminal information and the registered user information of MFPs 100A, 100B, and 100C, respectively, to MFP 100 (step S12). Thus, the connection process is a process executed on the condition that a request is received from MFP 100 which executes the initial setting process. Here, the request is the transmission of the terminal information and the registered user information; however, the request is not limited to this transmission, and it can also be a connection request or the like from MFP 100 that executes the initial setting process.

In the next step, S13, user data is generated from the terminal information and the registered user information of MFP 100 received in step S11, and the generated user data is appended to the user data already stored in HDD 107.

Thus, when the first user data is generated in all of MFPs 100, 100A, 100B, and 100C, the stored user data in all of MFPs 100, 100A, 100B, and 100C become identical. On the other hand, when the second user data is generated in MFP 100A, that second user data would be all of the terminal information and the registered user information of MFPs 100, 100B, and 100C put together, and when the second user data is generated in MFP 100B, that second user data would be all of the terminal information and the registered user information of MFPs 100, 100A, and 100C put together, and when the second user data is generated in MFP 100C, that second user data would be all of the terminal information and the registered user information of MFPs 100, 100A, and 100B put together.

Moreover, here, while the registration of the terminal information and the input of the registered user information are performed in the initial setting process executed in MFP 100, a process similar to this initial setting process is executed in the case where MFP 100 is already connected to network 2 and a user is to be added. In such a case, however, the registration process of the terminal information of step S01 is not required.

In addition, the initial setting process can be performed not only when MFPs 100, 100A, 100B, and 100C are connected to network 2 but also after the power is turned on for MFPs 100, 100A, 100B, and 100C, or at prescribed time intervals. It is performed, for instance, to allow MFP 100 to obtain the registered user information of a user newly registered in other MFPs 100A, 100B, and 100C and to store the latest user data. In this case, instead of the process of steps S01 to S03 of the initial setting process shown in FIG. 3A, a request for transmission of the registered user information is made to other MFPs 100A, 100B, and 100C. This transmission request for the registered user information at least includes apparatus identification information. In response to this transmission-request, other MFPs 100A, 100B, and 100C execute the connection process shown in FIG. 3B, and in step S11 in response to the transmission request received, transmit the registered user information stored in their respective HDDs 107 to MFP 100 that transmitted the transmission request. Thus, even when the registered user information stored in HDDs 107 of other MFPs 100A, 100B, and 100C is altered, user data will be generated from the altered registered user information and stored in HDD 107. Moreover, there is no need to execute step S13 in the connection process.

FIGS. 4A to 4F are diagrams for describing the registered user information and the first and second user data. FIG. 4A is a diagram showing an example of registered user information stored in MFP 100, FIG. 4B is a diagram showing an example of registered user information stored in MFP 100A, FIG. 4C is a diagram showing an example of registered user information stored in MFP 100B, and FIG. 4D is a diagram showing an example of registered user information stored in MFP 100C. The registered user information includes user identification information, accompanying information, and authentication information. The accompanying information is the information related to a user, such as the name of the division the user belongs to, an electronic mail address assigned to that user, face image data obtained by capturing the face of that user, and so on. The authentication information is the information used for authentication of the user at log-in, and here, a password is used. It is also possible to use the face image data as the authentication information. When biometrics authentication is used, a fingerprint, sound spectrogram, iris, vein pattern, and the like are used. Furthermore, FIG. 4E is a diagram showing an example of first user data, and FIG. 4F is a diagram showing an example of second user data stored in MFP 100A. The user data includes a number, registered user information, apparatus identification information of a home terminal, and the location where the home terminal is disposed. The user data need only to include at least the user identification information and the apparatus identification information of a home terminal.

Although an example in which the electronic mail address assigned to a user is saved as accompanying information is illustrated in the above-described embodiment, the method of transmission and reception of image data is not limited to the use of electronic mail, and a facsimile transmission, an FTP (File Transfer Protocol), or the like can be used. In such cases, information suited for the method of transmission and reception of the image data would be saved.

In this manner, when the initial setting process is executed in MFP 100, in MFPs 100, 100A, 100B, and 100C set to be of the same group, the same first user data is generated and stored, or second user data including all of the registered user information of other terminals of the same group is generated. Thus, image processing system 1 constructed by MFPs 100, 100A, 100B, and 100C is formed. When image processing system 1 is formed, the user who uses one of MFPs 100, 100A, 100B, and 100C as a home terminal can be specified based on the user data so that data transmission and reception among users can be performed using the user data. The process executed by MFPs 100, 100A, 100B, and 100C for such data transmission and reception is herein referred to as a job. Moreover, the data transmission and reception performed by execution of such a job is called BOX transmission and reception.

A user inputs a job at one of MFPs 100, 100A, 100B, and 100C in order to transmit data. Moreover, when a job whose destination is the user himself exists, the user instructs MFPs 100, 100A, 100B, and 100C to execute the job and thus to output the data. Hereinafter, MFPs 100, 100A, 100B, and 100C into which a job is inputted is referred to as job input terminals, and MFPs 100, 100A, 100B, and 100C from which a job is outputted is referred to as job output terminals. Here, to simplify the description, the example will be illustrated in which the user of user identification information “David” inputs at MFP 100 the job of transmitting image data to the destination of user identification information “Julie.” In this case, MFP 100 is a job input terminal and executes a job input process. MFP 100 that executes the job input process executes the process of authenticating the user in response to a log-in request by the user “David,” and thereafter executes a job setting process. Moreover, although the example of executing the job input process at a home terminal is described here, the job input process can also be executed at a terminal other than the home terminal.

FIG. 5 is a flow chart showing a flow of the job setting process. The job setting process is implemented by having a job setting program that is stored in flash ROM 108 loaded into RAM 105 of MFP 100 and executed by CPU 101. The job setting program is a part of an image processing program. Moreover, it is prerequisite that the user “David” is logged into MFP 100 prior to the execution of the job setting program. This is to allow MFP 100 to specify the user who operates it.

With reference to FIG. 5, in the job setting process, a job setting window is displayed on display portion 119B (step S21). The job setting window is a window for setting data to be transmitted, a destination of the transmission, and a method of transmission. Moreover, the method of transmission (communication protocol such as electronic mail and facsimile communication) can be designated on the side where the image data is received. The job setting window will be described later. Then, it is determined whether a call instruction to call an address book is inputted or not (step S22). If a call instruction is inputted, the process proceeds to step S23, and if it is been inputted, the process proceeds to step S24. The address book is unique data of the user that is stored in advance in association with the log-in user, or here, with the user identification information “David.” The address book at least includes user identification information and apparatus identification information of a home terminal of that user. The address book can include an electronic mail address. Further, the address book can include a facsimile number. In step S23, the address book is read and is set as a destination list. In step S24, user data is read, and the user data is set as the destination list. In this case, it is not required to generate the destination list anew, and the destination list can be displayed even when an address book does not exist. Then, the destination list is displayed on the job setting window (step S25).

Further, it is determined whether or not the image data to be transmitted and the destination are designated in the job setting window (step S26), and if they are designated, the process proceeds to step S27, and if not, the process goes back to step S21. In step S27, the image data and the destination designated in step S26 are decided to be the image data to be transmitted and the destination.

FIG. 6A is a diagram illustrating an example of the job setting window. With reference to FIG. 6A, a job setting window 200 includes an area 201 for displaying information specifying an operator, an area 202 for accepting an input instruction or a selection instruction of data to be transmitted, an area 203 for instructing edition of data inputted or selected in area 202, an area 204 for accepting designation of the image data to be transmitted, and an area 205 for accepting designation of the destination of the transmission and the method of transmission.

In area 201, as the information to specify the log-in user “David” who is the operator, the user name “David” as the user identification information and the face image of David are displayed. Moreover, although the characters “FACE” are shown in the diagram for convenience, in practice the face image will be displayed.

Area 202 includes a button 202A for designating an area of HDD 107, a button 202B for instructing input of image data from scanner 113, and a button 202C for instructing input of image data from an image data input device. When button 202A is instructed, a thumbnail that displays in reduction the image data stored in the area of HDD 107 corresponding to that button is displayed in area 204. When button 202B is instructed, scanner 113 is activated and the thumbnail of image data outputted by scanner 113 is displayed in area 204. When button 202C is instructed, image data from the image data input device is inputted, and the thumbnail of the inputted image data is displayed in area 204. The image data input device is, for instance, a computer connected to network 2, and the image data outputted from that computer is inputted.

By instructing on the thumbnail displayed in area 204, the image data corresponding to the instructed thumbnail is designated as the image data to be the object of transmission. In addition, when the button displayed in area 203 is instructed, such processes as a bind process of putting together a plurality of image data, a deletion process of deleting the image data from the object of selection, a move process for changing the order, a process of enlarging the image data, a page development process of putting together a plurality of image data into one image data, and a reset process of canceling the instructed process are executed using the image data designated in area 204.

Area 205 is an area for setting a destination of transmission and a method of transmission. Area 205 includes an area 206 that displays a destination list for designating the destination of transmission, a button 205A for designating the method of transmission, and a button 206A for scrolling the display of the destination list. As a method of transmission, a facsimile transmission, an electronic mail (E-mail) transmission, or BOX transmission and reception can be designated. At least a part of the destination list is displayed in area 206. As the destination list, either of the address book or the user data is set by the above-described job setting process. The destination list at least includes the user identification information. Thus, the user identification information is displayed in area 206. Moreover, when the destination list includes a face image as accompanying information, that face image is displayed adjacent to the user identification information. Here, although two of the destinations included in the destination list are displayed in area 206, it can be changed to display another destination by instructing on button 206A.

Furthermore, by instructing on the user identification information displayed in area 206, detailed information of the user is displayed in a sub-window. The sub-window is displayed on the job setting window in an overlapping manner. The information displayed in the sub-window includes at least a part of the user data. FIG. 6B is a diagram illustrating an example of the sub-window showing the detailed information of a user. With reference to FIG. 6B, all of the user data of the user identification information “David” is displayed.

[BOX Transmission and Reception]

In the image processing system according to this embodiment, the above-described job setting process is executed when a job input process is executed at a job input terminal. Then, a job management process is executed in a home terminal of the user of the destination set by the job setting process. Here, the user of the user identification information “David” transmits image data to the destination of user identification information “Julie” at a home terminal MFP 100 so that the job input process is executed in MFP 100 and the job management process is executed in MFP 100A which is a home terminal of the user identification information “Julie.” Furthermore, when “Julie” who is set to be the user of the destination instructs output of the job at home terminal MFP 100A or at other terminals MFPs 100, 100B, and 100C, a job output process is executed at that terminal. The terminal at which the output of a job is instructed is called a job output terminal. Here, the job output terminal is described as being MFP 100B.

FIGS. 7A to 7D are flow charts showing a flow of a BOX transmission and reception process executed in the image processing system according to this embodiment. FIG. 7A is a flow chart showing a flow of a job input process executed at a job input terminal. FIG. 7B is a flow chart showing a flow of a job management process executed at the job input terminal. The job input process and the job management process are implemented by loading a job input program stored in flash ROM 108 into RAM 105 of the job input terminal and executing the job input program by CPU 101. FIG. 7C is a flow chart showing a flow of a job management process executed at a home terminal. This job management process is implemented by loading a job management program stored in flash ROM 108 into RAM 105 of the home terminal and executing the job management program by CPU 101. FIG. 7D is a flow chart showing a flow of a job output process executed at a job output terminal. This job output process is implemented by loading a job output program stored in flash ROM 108 into RAM 105 of the job output terminal and executing the job output program by CPU 101. The job input program, the job management program, and the job output program are a part of an image processing program.

First, with reference to FIG. 7A, MFP 100 which is the job input terminal performs user authentication of the user of user identification information “David” (step S31). As a result of the user authentication, if the user is authenticated, log-in is permitted and the process proceeds to step S32, but if not authenticated, log-in is not permitted and the process goes back to step S31 and stands by. The authentication involves permitting log-in when the user identification information and a password inputted by the user exist in the user data stored in HDD 107 and not permitting log-in when they do not exist. As described above, the user data includes registered user information stored in MFPs 100A, 100B, and 100C but not in MFP 100 so that a user for whom MFP 100 is not a home terminal can log into MFP 100 as long as the user uses any of MFPs 100A, 100B, and 100C as a home terminal.

In step S32, the job setting process described using FIG. 5 is executed. Then, it is determined whether the setting of a job is completed or not (step S33). When the setting is completed, the process proceeds to step S34, and if not completed, the process stands by until the setting is completed. The setting of the job is determined to have been completed when image data to be transmitted and the destination are decided by the job setting process.

In step S34, the image data decided to be transmitted is stored in HDD 107. Then, in step S35, job attribute information is generated. The job attribute information is data which associates location information indicating a location of the image data on a network with user identification information of a user which becomes destination information. Then, the generated job attribute information is transmitted to MFP 100A which is a home terminal of the user “Julie” of the destination (step S36).

FIG. 8 is a diagram showing an example of a format of job attribute information. With reference to FIG. 8, the job attribute information includes information of transmission origin, destination information, and image data information. The information of transmission origin is user identification information of a user who instructed the execution of the job input process, who is, here, “David.” The destination information includes user identification information of the user of the destination and apparatus identification information for identifying a home terminal of that user. Here, the user identification information of the destination information is “Julie” and the apparatus identification information is an IP address of MFP 100A. The image data information includes the apparatus identification information of a terminal in which the image data information is stored and a file name stored in that terminal. Here, the image data is stored in HDD 107 of MFP 100 which is the job input terminal so that the apparatus identification information of the image data information is the IP address of MFP 100 and the file name is designated by a direct path including information which specifies HDD 107 (for instance, a device name or a drive name). Thus, the image data information is the location information on network 2 where the image data is stored, and at least has apparatus identification information (IP address of the apparatus). The image data information can be an URL (Uniform Resource Locator). Moreover, although the image data to be transmitted is here stored in MFP 100 which is the job input terminal, it can be stored in other MFPs 100A, 100B, and 100C.

With reference to FIG. 7C, it is determined whether or not job attribute information is received in MFP 100B which is a home terminal (step S51). If the job attribute information is received, the process proceeds to step S52, and if the job attribute information is not received, the process proceeds to step S53. In step S52, the received job attribute information is stored in a prescribed area of HDD 107.

At this stage, the image data to be transmitted is stored in MFP 100 which is the job input terminal, and the job attribute information is stored in MFP 100A which is a home terminal of the user “Julie” of the destination.

Next, with reference to FIG. 7D, in MFP 100B which is the job output terminal, user authentication of the user of the user identification information “Julie” is performed (step S71). As a result of the user authentication, if the user is authenticated, log-in is permitted and the process proceeds to step S72, but if not authenticated, log-in is not permitted and the process stands by. In other words, a job output process is a process which is executed on the condition that at least user identification information is inputted at the job output terminal. As described above, user data includes registered user information stored in MFPs 100, 100A, and 100C but not in MFP 100B which is the home terminal so that a user for whom MFP 100B is not a home terminal can log into MFP 100B as long as the user uses any of MFPs 100, 100A, and 100C as a home terminal.

Thus, in step S72, it is determined whether MFP 100B which is the job output terminal is a home terminal of the user of the user identification information “Julie” or not. If it is the home terminal, the process proceeds to step S75, but if not, the process proceeds to step S73. Here, MFP 100B is not a home terminal of the user of the user identification information “Julie” so that the process proceeds to step S73. In step S73, a request for transmission of job attribute information is transmitted to MFP 100A which is a home terminal of the user of the user identification information “Julie.” This transmission request includes the user identification information “Julie.”

With reference to FIG. 7C, in step S53, it is determined whether the transmission request for the job attribute information is received or not. If it is received, the process proceeds to step S54, and if it is not received, the process is ended. In step S54, using the user identification information included in the transmission request, the job attribute information including that user identification information is extracted from the job attribute information stored in HDD 107. In the case where a plurality of corresponding job attribute information exist in HDD 107, all of the corresponding job attribute information is extracted. Then, the extracted job attribute information is transmitted to the job output terminal that transmitted the transmission request (step S55). Moreover, if no corresponding job attribute information is extracted in step S54, information which indicates that the job attribute information does not exist is transmitted to the job output terminal.

With reference to FIG. 7D, job attribute information is received according to the transmission request transmitted in step S73 (step S74). If the information which indicates that the job attribute information does not exist is received, the process proceeds directly to step S75.

In the next step, S75, it is determined whether a job whose destination is the user of the user identification information “Julie” who is the log-in user exists or not. This determination is made based on whether the job attribute information exists or not. If the job output terminal is not a home terminal, the determination is made based on whether the information which indicates that the job attribute information does not exist is received in step S74 or not. If such information is received, the process is ended as having no job. If the job attribute information is received in step S74, the process proceeds to step S76. On the other hand, in the case where the job-output terminal is a home terminal, job attribute information which includes the user identification information “Julie” who is the log-in user is extracted from the job attribute information stored in HDD 107. If such job attribute information is extracted, the process proceeds to step S76 as having a job, and if it is not extracted, the process is ended.

In step S76, the job attribute information including the user identification information “Julie” who is the log-in user is displayed on display portion 119B. Of the job attribute information, at least the user identification information of the destination information is displayed. The user identification information of the information of transmission origin and a file name of image data information can also be displayed. This is to allow the user to use as reference and to understand whom the transmitted image data was transmitted from and its content.

Then, it is determined whether an output instruction is inputted or not (step S77). If such an instruction is inputted, the process proceeds to step S78, and if not, the process is ended. In step S78, a pull-print instruction is transmitted to a terminal specified by the apparatus identification information of the image data information of the job attribute information. A pull-print instruction is an instruction requesting a transmission of image data. Here, the image data is stored in the job input terminal so that the pull-print instruction would be transmitted to MFP 100 which is the job input terminal. The pull-print instruction at least includes a file name of the image data information of the job attribute information.

With reference to FIG. 7B, in step S37, it is determined whether a pull-print instruction is received or not. If the pull-print instruction is received, the process proceeds to step S38, and if it is not received, the process is ended. In step S38, the image data specified by the file name included in the pull-print instruction received is read. Then, the read image data is transmitted to MFP 100B which is the job output terminal that transmitted the pull-print instruction (step S39).

Once again with reference to FIG. 7D, in step S79, the image data transmitted in response to the transmission of the pull-print instruction transmitted in step S78 is received. Then, the received image data is outputted (step S80). The output is performed by a method according to the designation made by the user “Julie.”

Moreover, there is a case where a job output terminal is used for both the job output terminal and a job input terminal, and in such a case, the image data is stored in HDD 107 of the job output terminal. Thus, when obtaining such image data, instead of transmitting the pull-print instruction in step S78, the job output terminal reads from HDD 107 the image data specified by the file name of the image data information of the job attribute information. In this case, step S79 is not required. The expressions transmission of image data and/or reception of image data refer to exchanges of image data including an exchange of image data within the same terminal. In addition, while the above-described example illustrates the transmission and the reception of image data being performed using a pull-print instruction, a transmission instruction by electronic mail given by a receiver of the image data or a facsimile transmission instruction can be used, instead.

[Modification of BOX Transmission and Reception]

In the above-described image processing system, image data to be transmitted is stored in a job input terminal, and job attribute information is stored in a home terminal of the user of the destination. On the other hand, in the image processing system according to the modification, the image data to be transmitted and the job attribute information are both stored in a home terminal of the user of the destination. Thus, a part of the job input process executed in the job input terminal in the above-described image processing system is executed at a home terminal of the user of the destination in the image processing system according to the modification.

FIGS. 9A to 9C are flow charts showing a flow of a BOX transmission and reception process executed in the image processing system according to the modification. FIG. 9A is a flow chart showing a flow of a job input process according to the modification. FIG. 9B is a flow chart showing a flow of a job management process according to the modification. FIG. 9C is a flow chart showing a flow of a job output process according to the modification.

First, with reference to FIG. 9A, in MFP 100 which is a job input terminal according to the modification, steps S31 to S33 are executed in a similar manner to the job input terminal of the above-described image processing system. Thus, image data to be transmitted and a destination are decided.

Then, job attribute information is generated (step S35). Apparatus identification information of image data information in the job attribute information generated here is the apparatus identification information assigned to MFP 100A which is a home terminal. If the area to which the image data is to be stored in HDD 107 of MFP 100A is predetermined, a file name of the image data information is a file name including information that designates that area. Then, the generated job attribute information and the image data to be transmitted are transmitted to MFP 100A which is a home terminal of the user “Julie” of the destination (step S36A).

With reference to FIG. 9B, in MFP 100A which is a home terminal, it is determined whether the job attribute information and the image data are received or not (step S51A). If the job attribute information and the image data are received, the process proceeds to step S52A, and if they are not received, the process proceeds to step S53. In step S52A, the job attribute information and the image data received are stored in a prescribed area of HDD 107. In the job attribute information, the file name of the image data information is a direct path including information which specifies HDD 107 of MFP 100A (for instance, a device name or a drive name) so that, in the case where the job attribute information is to be stored in an area different from the area of HDD 107 specified by the file name of the image data information of that job attribute information, the job attribute information is stored with its file name changed.

At this stage, the image data to be transmitted and the job attribute information are stored in MFP 100A which is a home terminal of the user “Julie” of the destination. Moreover, a case where the job input terminal is used for both the job input terminal and a job output terminal is also possible. In such a case, while moving of data between apparatuses is not required, the expressions transmission of image data and/or reception of image data refer to exchanges of image data including an exchange of image data within the same terminal.

Next, the process of steps S53 to S55 is executed, and the job attribute information is transmitted to MFP 100B which is the job output terminal. Moreover, if job attribute information to be transmitted is not being stored, information which indicates that the job attribute information does not exist is transmitted to the job output terminal.

Then, the process of step S58 and beyond is executed. The process of steps S58 to S60 is the same as the process of steps S37 to S39 described in FIG. 7B. Thus, it is determined whether a pull-print instruction is received or not (step S58), and if the pull-print instruction is received, the image data specified by a file name included in the pull-print instruction is read (step S59), and the read image data is transmitted to MFP 100B which is the job output terminal that transmitted the pull-print instruction (step S60).

Next, with reference to FIG. 9C, the process of steps S71 to S80 is the same as the job output process described in FIG. 7D. The process in the case where the job output terminal is a home terminal of the user of the user identification information “Julie” differs, however. This is because, if the job output terminal is a home terminal, the image data is being stored in HDD 107 of the job output terminal. Thus, in step S81, the job attribute information which includes the user identification information “Julie” who is the log-in user is extracted from the job attribute information stored in HDD 107. If such job attribute information is extracted, the process proceeds to step S82 as having a job, and if it is not extracted, the process is ended.

In step S82, the job attribute information including the user identification information “Julie” who is the log-in user is displayed on display portion 119B. Then, it is determined whether an output instruction is inputted or not (step S83), and if such an instruction is inputted, the process proceeds to step S84, and if not, the process is ended. In step S84, the image data specified by the file name of the image data information of the job attribute information is read from HDD 107 and outputted.

As described above, the image processing system according to the first embodiment is constructed by MFPs 100, 100A, 100B, and 100C each connected to a network. Each of MFPs 100, 100A, 100B, and 100C stores in HDD 107 registered user information that at least includes user identification information for identifying a user. In each of MFPs 100, 100A, 100B, and 100C, an image processing program is executed by CPU 101.

For example, MFP 100 requests at least one of other MFPs 100A, 100B, and 100C, for instance, MFPs 100A, 100B, and 100C, to transmit registered user information stored in HDD 107 provided in MFP 100A, receives the registered user information transmitted by MFPs 100A, 100B, and 100C according to the request, and stores in HDD 107 user data that at least includes the received registered user information. User data is the data which associates user identification information with apparatus identification information for identifying each of MFPs 100, 100A, 100B, and 100C. Thus, if the registered user information including the user identification information is stored in any one of MFPs 100, 100A, 100B, and 100C connected to a network, for instance, in MFP 100, that registered user information can be referred to in MFPs 100A, 100B, and 100C which do not store that registered user information.

In addition, each of MFPs 100, 100A, 100B, and 100C further stores user data that at least includes the registered user information stored in its own HDD 107 in addition to the received registered user information.

Moreover, the user data is the data which associates registered user information with apparatus identification information for identifying each of MFPs 100, 100A, 100B, and 100C in which the registered user information was stored so that it can be determined from the user data which of the apparatuses it was that the registered user information was stored in.

Further, each of MFPs 100, 100A, 100B, and 100C displays the user identification information included in the user data stored in HDD 107 (S25), and accepts designation of the displayed user identification information (step S26). Thus, the user identification information of a desired user can be designated from among the user identification information stored in any of MFPs 100, 100A, 100B, and 100C.

Furthermore, the user data includes user identification information and apparatus identification information of a home terminal as information of transmission destination of data, and when data is input (S32), each of MFPs 100, 100A, 100B, and 100C transmits the inputted data according to the information of transmission destination specified by the designated user identification information (S34 to S39). Thus, the inputted data can be transmitted to any of the users specified by the user identification information stored in any of MFPs 100, 100A, 100B, and 100C.

In addition, registered user information includes authentication information for authenticating a user, and each of MFPs 100, 100A, 100B, and 100C performs user authentication based on the registered user information and the authentication information inputted by the user (S31) so that, as long as the registered user information is stored in any of MFPs 100, 100A, 100B, and 100C, the user authentication becomes possible at any of a plurality of image processing apparatuses.

Upon inputting image data, when the image data is inputted into scanner 113, FAX 117, or communication I/F 111 at a job input terminal, for instance, at MFP 100, CPU 101 stores the image data in HDD 107 of job input terminal MFP 100 and generates job attribute information which associates location information of the image data on a network with user identification information. Then, CPU 101 transmits the generated job attribute information to a home terminal, for instance, to MFP 100A, to be stored therein. The location information of the image data on the network includes a file name and an IP address assigned to MFP 100 in which the image data is stored.

Furthermore, according to the modification, in a job input terminal MFP 100, when image data is inputted, CPU 101 causes the image data to be stored in HDD 107 of a home terminal MFP 100A, and generates job attribute information which associates location information of the image data on the network with user identification information. Then, CPU 101 transmits the generated job attribute information to home terminal MFP 100A to be stored therein. The location information of the image data on the network includes a file name and an IP address assigned to MFP 100A in which the image data is stored.

Since any of MFPs 100, 100A, 100B, and 100C in which the job attribute information is to be stored is defined by user data, MFPs 100, 100A, 100B, and 100C which store the job attribute information related to the user can be specified from the user identification information. In addition, the user identification information and the location information of the image data on the network are associated by the job attribute information so that the location on network 2 where the image data is stored can be determined from the job attribute information. Thus, the image data can be stored in any apparatus of MFPs 100, 100A, 100B, and 100C.

On the other hand, in a home terminal of the user, here, in MFP 100A, its CPU 101 receives job attribute information generated by a job input terminal, here, by MFP 100, and stores the job attribute information that includes apparatus identification information of MFP 100A. Thus, there is no need to search for MFPs 100, 100A, 100B, and 100C that store the job attribute information in order to obtain the job attribute information, and the communication traffic can be reduced so as to allow the effective use of network 2.

Moreover, upon outputting image data, in a job output terminal, for instance, in MFP 100B, when user identification information is inputted, job attribute information including that user identification information is obtained from HDD 107 of a home terminal of the user, or here MFP 100A, and obtains the image data associated by the obtained job attribute information. The job attribute information includes the user identification information so that, by obtaining the job attribute information which includes certain user identification information, all the image data associated with that user identification information can be obtained. In other words, the image data related to a certain user can be obtained at any apparatus of a plurality of MFPs 100, 100A, 100B, and 100C. Thus, image data inputted at any apparatus of MFPs 100, 100A, 100B, and 100C can be obtained at any one apparatus of MFPs 100, 100A, 100B, and 100C.

Moreover, when user identification information is inputted due to an inquiry from a job output terminal, or here, from MFP 100B, if job attribute information which includes that user identification information is stored in HDD 107, a home terminal of the user, or here MFP 100A, reads and transmits that job attribute information to MFP 100B that made the inquiry. As a result, the job at tribute information is obtained at MFP 100B that has made the inquiry. Thus, regardless of which of MFPs 100, 100A, 100B, and 100C it is that the user identification information is inputted, the job attribute information including that user identification information can be obtained from any of MFPs 100, 100A, 100B, and 100C.

Furthermore, in the image processing system according to the modification, image data is stored in a home terminal. A user uses the home terminal most frequently so that, by storing the image data in the home terminal in advance, the throughput time for obtaining the image data can be shortened.

Second Embodiment

An overall arrangement of an image processing system according to a second embodiment is similar to the image processing system according to the first embodiment shown in FIG. 1. Moreover, the hardware arrangement of MFPs 100, 100A, 100B, and 100C forming an image processing system according to the second embodiment is the same as that of MFP 100 shown in FIG. 2. Thus, the description thereof will not be repeated here. In the image processing system according to the first embodiment, first or second user data is stored in MFPs 100, 100A, 100B, and 100C. In the image processing system according to the second embodiment, however, the first or second user data is not stored in MFPs 100, 100A, 100B, and 100C. Thus, the initial setting process and the connection process shown in FIGS. 3A and 3B are not executed. When MFP 100 is connected anew to a network 2, the process required for establishing connection to network 2 (for instance, setting of an IP address) is performed and registered user information is stored.

In MFPs 100, 100A, 100B, and 100C according to the second embodiment, a detection process is executed in order to detect a home terminal of a user of a destination. FIGS. 10A and 10B are flow charts showing a flow of a home terminal detection process. FIG. 10A shows a flow of a detection process A executed at a terminal that attempts to detect a home terminal, and FIG. 10B shows a flow of a detection process B executed at a terminal other than the terminal executing detection process A. Detection process A and detection process B are implemented by loading a detection process A program and a detection process B program stored in flash ROM 108 into RAM 105 of MFPs 100, 100A, 100B, and 100C and executing the detection process A program and the detection process B program by CPU 101. The detection process A program and the detection process B program are a part of an image processing program. Here, for ease of description, a terminal that attempts to detect a home terminal is referred to as a detecting terminal, and a terminal other than the terminal executing detection process A is referred to as a detected terminal.

With reference to FIGS. 10A and 10B, in a detecting terminal, a detection request for detecting a home terminal is transmitted by broadcast. The detection request includes user identification information of a user of a destination. In a detected terminal, the process stands by until the detection request is received (NO in step S95), and the process proceeds to step S96 when the detection request is received. In step S96, it is detected whether registered user information including user identification information included in the detection request received in step S95 is stored in HDD 107 or not. If such registered user information is stored, the process proceeds to step S97, and if not, step S97 is skipped and the process is ended. When the registered user information including the user identification information included in the detection request is stored in HDD 107, the detected terminal is a home terminal of the user of that user identification information. Thus, in step S97, in order to notify the detecting terminal that it is itself a home terminal, the detected terminal transmits apparatus identification information for identifying the detected terminal to the detecting terminal.

On the other hand, in the detecting terminal, it is determined whether the apparatus identification information is received according to the transmission of the detection request (step S91) or not (step S92). If it is received, the process proceeds to step S93, but if it is not received, the process proceeds to step S94. In step S93, the terminal identified by the received apparatus identification information is set as a home terminal of the user specified by the user identification information. In step S94, it is set as a home terminal of the user specified by the user identification information being nonexistent. In this case, error handling can also be performed.

Moreover, although the detection request is transmitted by broadcast in step S91, other MFPs 100A, 100B, and 100C connected to network 2 can be detected and the detection request can be transmitted to other MFPs 100A, 100B, and 100C one by one. In this case, by ending the process at the point when a home terminal is detected, the processing time can be efficiently shortened.

When the process shown in FIGS. 7A to 7D or FIGS. 9A to 9C is executed at each of MFPs 100, 100A, 100B, and 100C of the image processing system according to the second embodiment, the above-described detection process is executed prior to the process of transmitting data to a home terminal. More specifically, detection process A is executed immediately before step S36 in FIG. 7A, immediately before step S73 in FIG. 7D, immediately before step S36A in FIG. 9A, and immediately before step S73 in FIG. 9C.

As described above, in the image processing system according to the second embodiment, a detection process is executed in order to detect a home terminal of the user of the destination. Thus, a similar effect to that achieved by the image processing system according to the first embodiment can be achieved without storing the first or second user data in MFPs 100, 100A, 100B, and 100C.

Third Embodiment

Next, an image processing system according to a third embodiment will be described. An overall arrangement of the image processing system according to the third embodiment is similar to the image processing system according to the first embodiment shown in FIG. 1. Moreover, the hardware arrangement of MFPs 100, 100A, 100B, and 100C forming an image processing system according to the third embodiment is the same as that of MFP 100 shown in FIG. 2. Thus, the description thereof will not be repeated here.

In the image processing system according to the first embodiment, when MFP 100 is to be connected anew to network 2 where MFPs 100A, 100B, and 100C are already connected thereto, the initial setting process shown in FIG. 3A is executed in MFP 100, and the connection process shown in FIG. 3B is executed in other MFPs 100A, 100B, and 100C. Each of these processes is executed in the image processing system according to the third embodiment in a similar manner, and first or second user data is generated in MFPs 100, 100A, 100B, and 100C. The first or second user data generated in the image processing system according to the third embodiment, however, does not require apparatus identification information for identifying a home terminal.

FIGS. 11A and 11B are other flow charts showing a flow of a process executed when MFP 100 is newly connected to a network. FIG. 11A shows another flow of an initial setting process executed by MFP 100, and FIG. 11B shows another flow of a connection process executed in each of MFPs 100A, 100B, and 100C when the initial setting process is executed in MFP 100. The initial setting process and the connection process are implemented by respectively loading an initial setting program and a connection program stored in flash ROM 108 into RAM 105 and executing them by CPU 101. The initial setting program and the connection program are a part of an image processing program.

With reference to FIG. 11A, the initial setting process here differs from the initial setting process shown in FIG. 3A in that, while terminal information and registered user information are transmitted in step S04, registered user information is transmitted while the terminal information is not transmitted in step S04A, and in that, while the terminal information and the registered user information are received in step S05, the registered user information is received while the terminal information is not received in step S05A. Moreover, with reference to FIG. 11B, the initial setting process here differs from the initial setting process shown in FIG. 3B in that, while terminal information and registered user information are received in step S11, the registered user information is received while the terminal information is not received in step S11A, and in that, while terminal information and registered user information are transmitted in step S12, the registered user information is transmitted while the terminal information is not transmitted in step S12A.

Thus, in MFP 100, user data is generated from registered user information in step S09. This user data includes the registered user information. As for the generated user data, if it is determined in step S07 that the registered user information of MFP 100 itself is to be used, all of the registered user information stored in MFPs 100, 100A, 100B, and 100C put together becomes the user data (first user data), and if it is determined in step S07 that the registered user information of MFP 100 itself is not to be used, all of the registered user information stored in MFPs 100A, 100B, and 100C but not of MFP 100 put together becomes the user data (second user data).

In addition, in each of MFPs 100A, 100B, and 100C, user data is generated from the registered user information of MFP 100 received in step S11A, and the generated user data is appended to the user data already stored in HDD 107 (step S13).

FIGS. 12A and 12B are diagrams for describing the first and second user data according to the third embodiment. FIGS. 12A and 12B show user data generated in the case where the registered user information shown in FIGS. 4A to 4D are stored in each of MFPs 100, 100A, 100B, and 100C. FIG. 12A is another diagram showing an example of the first user data, and FIG. 12B is another diagram showing an example of the second user data. With reference to FIGS. 12A and 12B, the first and second user data differ from the first and second user data shown in FIGS. 4E and 4F in that they include registered user information but not information related to a home terminal.

[BOX Transmission and Reception]

Here, to simplify the description, the example will be described in which the user of user identification information “David” inputs at MFP 100 a job of transmitting image data to the destination of user identification information “Julie.” In this case, a job input process is executed in MFP 100. In the job input process, user authentication is performed in response to a log-in request by the user “David,” and thereafter, a job setting process is executed. Moreover, although the example of executing the job input process at a home terminal is described here, the job input process can also be executed at a terminal other than the home terminal.

FIGS. 13A to 13C are flow charts showing a flow of the BOX transmission and reception process executed in the image processing system according to the third embodiment. FIG. 13A is another flow chart showing a flow of a job input process executed at a job input terminal. FIG. 13B is another flow chart showing a flow of a job management process executed at a terminal other than an output terminal. FIG. 13C is another flow chart showing a flow of a job output process executed at a job output terminal.

With reference to FIG. 13A, the process of steps S31 to S34 is the same as the job input process according to the first embodiment. In step S35, job attribute information is generated, but the job attribute information generated here does not include apparatus identification information of a home terminal. Then, the job attribute information generated in step S35 and image data decided in step S33 to be transmitted are stored in a prescribed area of HDD 107 of MFP 100 which is the job input terminal (step S35A).

FIG. 14 is a diagram showing an example of a format of job attribute information according to the third embodiment. With reference to FIG. 14, the job attribute information includes information of transmission origin, destination information, and image data information. The information of transmission origin is user identification information of the user who instructed the execution of a job input process, who is, here, “David.” The destination information includes user identification information of the user of the destination. Here, the user identification information of the destination information is “Julie.” The image data information includes apparatus identification information of a terminal in which the image data information is stored and a file name stored in that terminal. Here, the image data is stored in HDD 107 of MFP 100 which is the job input terminal so that the apparatus identification information of the image data information is an IP address of MFP 100, and the file name is designated by a direct path including information which specifies HDD 107 (for instance, a device name or a drive name). Thus, the image data information is location information on network 2 where the image data is stored. The image data information can be an URL (Uniform Resource Locator).

Moreover, although the image data to be transmitted is here stored in MFP 100 which is the job input terminal, it can be stored in other MFPs 100A, 100B, and 100C. The job attribute information is not required to include the information of transmission origin, and it needs only to include at least the user identification information of the user of the destination and the location information on network 2 of the image data to be transmitted.

Next, output of the image data will be described. Here, an example will be described in which the user of user identification information “Julie” logs into MFP 100B. In this case, MFP 100B corresponds to the job output terminal.

With reference to FIG. 13C, in MFP 100B which is the job output terminal, user authentication of the user of the user identification information “Julie” is performed (step S71). As a result of the user authentication, if the user is authenticated, log-in is permitted and the process proceeds to step S73A, but if not authenticated, log-in is not permitted and the process stands by. In other words, a job output process is a process which is executed on the condition that at least user identification information is inputted at the job output terminal.

In step S73A, a signal requesting transmission of job attribute information which includes the user identification information “Julie” is transmitted by broadcast. This signal that requests the transmission of the job attribute information includes the user identification information “Julie.”

With reference to FIG. 13B, in step S53, it is determined whether the request for transmission of the job attribute information is received from the job output terminal or not. If it is received, the process proceeds to step S53A, and if it is not received, the process proceeds to step S58. In step S53A, it is determined whether the job attribute information including the user identification information included in the transmission request is stored in HDD 107 or not. When such job attribute information is stored, the process proceeds to step S54, and if it is not stored, the process proceeds to step S58. In step S54, using the user identification information included in the transmission request, the job attribute information including that user identification information is extracted from the job attribute information stored in HDD 107. In the case where a plurality of corresponding job attribute information exist in HDD 107, all of the corresponding job attribute information is extracted. Then, the extracted job attribute information is transmitted to the job output terminal that transmitted the transmission request (step S55). Moreover, the process of the following steps S58 to S60 is the same as the process of steps S37 to S39 shown in FIG. 7B so that the description will not be repeated here.

Once again with reference to FIG. 13C, at the job output terminal, the job attribute information is received according to the transmission request transmitted in step S73A (step S74). The process of steps S75 to S80 executed at the job output terminal after the job attribute information is received is the same as the process shown in FIG. 7D so that the description will not be repeated here.

Moreover, although the initial setting process shown in FIG. 11A and the connection process shown in FIG. 11B are executed for MFPs 100, 100A, 100B, and 100C in the third embodiment, these processes are not always required to be executed. In other words, in the image processing system according to the third embodiment, the process shown in FIGS. 13A to 13C can be executed even when each of MFPs 100, 100A, 100B, and 100C does not store the first or second user data. In this case, in step S32 of FIG. 13A, designation of image data to be transmitted and designation of user identification information for specifying the user of the destination of transmission are performed. As to the user identification information, registered user information is not required to be stored in a job input terminal, for instance, in MFP 100, that executes the process of step S32, and the registered user information needs only to be stored in any of MFPs 100, 100A, 100B, and 100C.

As described above, in the image processing system according to the third embodiment, each of MFPs 100, 100A, 100B, and 100C stores in HDD 107 user data which at least includes user identification information for identifying each of a plurality of users. In each of MFPs 100, 100A, 100B, and 100C, an image processing program is executed in CPU 101.

Upon inputting image data, when the image data is inputted into scanner 113, FAX 117, or communication I/F 111 at a job input terminal, for instance, at MFP 100, CPU 101 stores the image data in HDD 107 of job input terminal MFP 100, generates job attribute information which associates location information of the image data on a network with user identification information, and stores the generated job attribute information in HDD 107 of MFP 100. Since the user identification information and the location information of the image data on network 2 are associated by the job attribute information, the image data can be stored in any apparatus of MFPs 100, 100A, 100B, and 100C. The location information of the image data on network 2 includes a file name and an IP address assigned to MFP 100 in which the image data is stored.

Moreover, upon outputting image data, when user identification information is inputted, in order to obtain job attribute information including that user identification information, CPU 101 of a job output terminal, for instance, MFP 100B, requests transmission of the job attribute information by broadcast, or requests other MFPs 100, 100A, and 100C, one by one, to transmit of the job attribute information.

On the other hand, when user identification information is inputted due to an inquiry from MFP 100B which is the job output terminal, if job attribute information including that user identification information is stored in HDD 107, MFP 100 which is the job input terminal reads and transmits that job attribute information to MFP 100B which is the job output terminal that made the inquiry. Thus, the job attribute information is obtained at MFP 100B which is the job output terminal that made the inquiry. As a result, regardless of which of MFPs 100, 100A, 100B, and 100C it is that the user identification information is inputted, the job attribute information including that user identification information can be obtained from any of MFPs 100, 100A, 100B, and 100C.

Furthermore, in response to a transmission request for job attribute information, CPU 101 of job output terminal MFP 100B receives the job attribute information from a job input terminal which stores the job attribute information including user identification information, or here, from MFP 100, and obtains image data associated by the obtained job attribute information. The job attribute information includes the user identification information so that, by obtaining the job attribute information including certain user identification information, all the image data associated with that user identification information can be obtained. In other words, the image data related to a certain user can be obtained at any apparatus of a plurality of MFPs 100, 100A, 100B, and 100C. Thus, image data inputted at any apparatus of MFPs 100, 100A, 100B, and 100C can be obtained at any apparatus of MFPs 100, 100A, 100B, and 100C.

Moreover, when user identification information is inputted due to an inquiry from job output terminal MFP 100B, if job attribute information including that user identification information is stored in HDD 107, job input terminal MFP 100 reads and transmits that job attribute information to MFP 100B that made the inquiry. As a result, the job attribute information is obtained at MFP 100B that made the inquiry. Thus, regardless of which of MFPs 100, 100A, 100B, and 100C it is that the user identification information is inputted, the job attribute information including that user identification information can be obtained from any of MFPs 100, 100A, 100B, and 100C.

Although the present invention has been described and illustrated in detail, it is clearly understood that the same is by way of illustration and example only and is not to be taken by way of limitation, the spirit and scope of the present invention being limited only by the terms of the appended claims.

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Classifications
U.S. Classification358/1.15, 358/1.16
International ClassificationG06F3/12
Cooperative ClassificationG06F21/608, H04L63/08
European ClassificationG06F21/60C2
Legal Events
DateCodeEventDescription
Oct 21, 2005ASAssignment
Owner name: KONICA MINOLTA BUSINESS TECHNOLOGIES, INC., JAPAN
Free format text: ASSIGNMENT OF ASSIGNORS INTEREST;ASSIGNORS:FUKUI, KAZUYUKI;MASUI, MIKIO;OZAWA, HIROYUKI;AND OTHERS;REEL/FRAME:017132/0472;SIGNING DATES FROM 20050920 TO 20051005
Free format text: ASSIGNMENT OF ASSIGNORS INTEREST;ASSIGNORS:FUKUI, KAZUYUKI;MASUI, MIKIO;OZAWA, HIROYUKI;AND OTHERS;SIGNING DATES FROM 20050920 TO 20051005;REEL/FRAME:017132/0472